JERUSALEM, July 21, 2010 -- Sabbar Kashur, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, has been sentenced by an Israeli court to 18 months in jail for the unprecedented crime of "rape by deception."
It is a case that has raised some very difficult questions about discrimination and the legal system in Israel.
Two years ago Kashur met a Jewish woman on the street in Jerusalem. He worked as a messenger for an Israeli law firm and like some other Palestinians looking to integrate more effectively into Israeli society had assumed the identity of a Jew. He called himself Dudu, a common Israeli name.
On the same day the two had a consensual sexual encounter in a nearby office building. The woman, whose identity is still protected by law, did not know Kashur was an Arab. When she found out she filed a complaint with police.
Kashur was questioned by police and spent two years under house arrest facing a charge of rape and sexual assault. It was later dropped to the one of "rape by deception" in a plea bargain.
In his verdict Judge Zvi Segal wrote "If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated."
The judge insisted that the apparent offense of rape by deception was serious enough for jail time and not community service as the defense has argued.
"The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price," Segal wrote.
The case has attracted widespread criticism from Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations.
In the left-leaning Israeli paper Haaretz Thursday, noted columnist Gideon Levy pulled no punches in his condemnation of the verdict.
"Sabbar Kashur wanted to be a person, a person like everyone else. But as luck would have it, he was born a Palestinian. It happens. His chances of being accepted as a human being in Israel are nil," he wrote.
Kashur's decision to adopt an Israeli persona during the daytime is not uncommon, according to Israeli human rights activists.
"It is very well known that Israeli Palestinians living in Israel disguise themselves," said Leah Tsemel, a human rights lawyer. "You change your accent and you change your dress because if you look like an Arab you face harassment."
Kashur's lawyer has filed an appeal so that the case is not used to set a precedent. Adnan Aladdin said if it was "many men would find themselves in jail."
The defense argued that many men use deception to initiate sexual relations with women, from lying about their job to concealing the fact they are married. In this case it was the accused's identity as a Palestinian that seems to have resulted in the prosecution.
Gideon Levy wrote: "I would like to only raise one question with the judge. What if the guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman. Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not."